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Hiroshi Sugimoto: Lightning Fields

hiroshi

I am completely taken with these Lightning Series photographs by Hiroshi Sugimoto that I understand absolutely nothing about. I think that’s part of why I’m taken with them. The combination of art and science is so fantastic and intriguing and above my head, and the resulting photographs (are they really “photographs?” I don’t know. But they involve film.) are stunning.

Here’s how Wired Magazine describes the series and process: “Whether making ultralong exposures of movie screens or photographing museum dioramas to look like real scenes, Hiroshi Sugimoto has always used his camera to explore unseen phenomena — artifacts of time, light, the elements, and human perception. But for his latest project, called Lightning Fields, the award-winning photographer traded optics for electricity. He wields a Van de Graaff generator to send up to 400,000 volts through film to a metal table.

The resulting fractal branching, subtle feathering, and furry whorls call to mind vascular systems, geologic features, and trees. “I see the spark of life itself, the lightning that struck the primordial ooze,” Sugimoto says. Although some of the effects happen by chance, the artist does try to exercise control.

“I have a kitchen’s worth of utensils that produce sparks with different characteristics,” he says. “But there are many variables — weather, humidity, perhaps even what I had for breakfast — I’m never sure what influences the results.””

If you want to hear more about Sugimoto, from the man himself, check out this video from T Magazine. He doesn’t talk about this project, but he does say the phrase “cooked in my noodle” around 1:55 and it’s pretty great.

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